June 27, 2012
ing to become certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). Currently, the fire department has 18 of its 31 members certified at EMTs.
In 1969, the fire department began the Maple Lake Firefighter of the Year award. Mel Engel was the first recipient of the honor, which is not limited to a calendar year, but recognizes the efforts of fire department members over a number of years. The past five recipients of the award select each year’s honoree, with the surprise presentation made at the annual fire department banquet in January. A list of those honored appears on page 5B.
Speed in responding to emergency situations is important because the Maple Lake Fire Department has a lot of ground to cover. Close to 110 square miles of territory is protected by the Maple Lake Fire Department, serving about 10,000 people which include the townships of Albion, Corinna, Chatham, Maple Lake, Marysville and Silver Creek.
The fire that gutted the Wright Theatre in October of 1964 is most often mentioned as one of the most severe in Maple Lake history and
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as a result of its effect on the town. The fire departments in Annandale and Buffalo were called in to provide assistance and the Melvin Borell family was dramatically rescued from an upstairs apartment by local firefighters. That fire was especially devastating to Maple Lake because the movie theater, the bowling alley and the post office were all housed in the building, which is now the home of the Maple Lake Library.
Another major fire in the downtown area came in January of 1996 when a fire destroyed a building across from the city hall that housed the Finders-Keepers Antique Store and JMTD Color Stix.
By the time that firefighters got the call at 6 a. m., flames were coming out of the roof of the structure and it was reduced to rubble by 10 a. m. The owners of JMTD Color Stix, Tom and Kim Breiwick, were staying with their four children in an apartment at the back of the building. The family escaped with what possessions they could carry across the street to the Maple Lake Cafe, where patrons could feel the heat from the fire through the cafe windows. After the debris was removed, the property was purchased by the Maple Lake American Legion Club for an expanded parking lot.
In February of 1989, the former Frank Baert house on Division Street, owned at the time by Gunther and Judy Hinz, burned to the ground on a night when temperatures were as low as -20 below zero. Because of construction practices in the early 1900s when the house was built, walls in houses of that era tended to act like chimneys since they had no fire breaks from top to bottom. No one was injured, but the house and all the family’s belongings were destroyed.
However, the result of a fire can be much worse than losing a home or possessions. In November of 1996, two young boys perished in their home at 4312 112th St. NW, in Silver Creek. The sons of Kevin and Neysa Ballman: Dallas David, 11; and Dustin Paul, 5; were sleeping in their bedroom on the main level of the house, with their parents sleeping in the lower level. Firefighters arrived at about 1:33 a. m. on Friday, November 1, to find the house engulfed in flames. The Ballmans and neighbors had made repeated efforts to reach the boys, but were forced back by the heat and smoke. A bartender at the Silver Creek Corner Bar, about a block away, even threw a bicycle through a window on the main level in an attempt to rouse the boys. Dallas and Dustin were students at Monticello Public Schools.
In addition to fires, the fire department responds to all types of other emergencies, from medical calls, to downed powerlines, gas leaks, storm emergencies and vehicle crashes, which have included airplanes.
In October of 1996, high winds caused an ultra-light aircraft to plunge into a corn field between the airport and the Maple Lake High School practice football field. Coaches and members of the Irish football team rushed to the rescue, followed almost immediately by the fire department. But Charles R. Burch, 51, of Bloomington and Lawrence M. Ladoucer, 46, of Plymouth, died at the scene.
However, over the years, the quick and effective action by the Maple Lake Fire Department has saved lives and property in countless situations.
In April of 2001, the downtown
area, including St. Timothy’s School, was evacuated when a gas line was ruptured by a contractor at the intersection of the railroad tracks and Oak Avenue. The rupture happened at about 10 a. m., with firefighters coming in to shut off a tractor that had the potential to ignite the fumes at the site of the rupture. Firefighters then established a perimeter of hoses for a worse-case scenario and worked with Wright County Sheriff’s deputies to evacuate homes along Oak Avenue and 1st Street, in addition to the post office, Maple Lake Lumber, and the businesses on the east side of Birch Avenue. At about 11:30 a. m., the evacuation was expanded to the entire downtown business area and St. Timothy’s School, with students taken by bus to the Maple Lake Elementary gym. Trains were stopped by the Canadian Pacific Railroad from passing through Maple Lake while utility crews worked on the rupture. At about 7 p. m., residents and business owners were allowed back into the restricted area.
In 2008 the Maple Lake Fire Department was honored for its life-saving skills when responding to a heart-attack emergency by the Heart Safe Communities program. Sherryl Conzet of Maple Lake Township was the 10th heart attack survivor of the program and among those honored for their efforts in Conzet’s case were Todd Borell, Bob Polsfuss, Bart Lauer and Tom Blizil of the Maple Lake Fire Department.
The care and consideration extended by members of the Maple Lake Fire Department have always been appreciated with words of thanks from grateful fire and accident victims often appearing in the pages of the Maple Lake Messenger.
On the last day of school in June of 2011, Maple Lake High School junior Aaron Carlson was critically injured in a crash at the east end of Maple Lake on Highway 55. He
was flown by air ambulance to North Memorial Hospital and the actions of emergency personnel were credited with saving his life. Despite a severe brain injury, Aaron persevered and achieved his goal of graduating with the MLHS Class of 2012. In addition, his remarkable comeback led to his selection as a KARE-11 Academic All-Star. After the 2011 crash, Aaron’s mother, Sue Bartz, wrote the following message on
his CaringBridge website: “We are so thankful for all the concern everyone has shown for Aaron,” Sue said. “We would especially like to thank the Maple Lake Fire Department, EMTs and Paramedics, Allina Ambulance, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the Annandale Police Department, the Minnesota State Patrol, North Memorial AirCare and the North Memorial Trauma Center for everything they did (on June 3, 2011). Their quick response and excellent medical care saved Aaron’s life. We will always be grateful for their efforts...words don’t seem adequate to express how fortunate we
feel to still have Aaron with us.” The current MLFD roster is as follows: Todd Borell, chief; Bart Lauer, assistant chief; Daryl Hennen, assistant chief; Mike Lauer, captain; Scott Carriveau, captain; Ron Rassat, safety officer; Brad Hennen, ambulance director; Jeff
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